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ADHD

Updated 02 September 2019

This is why ADHD might raise the risk of early death

A Swedish study has found that people with ADHD are more likely to die prematurely due to accidental injuries, suicide and substance abuse – all fuelled by psychiatric problems.

Swedish researchers think they have honed in on why people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to die prematurely.

Accidental injuries, suicide and substance abuse all play a part, and psychiatric problems fuel these factors, a new study from the Karolinska Institute suggests.

Accidental injuries and suicide

To arrive at that conclusion, the researchers examined data from nearly 2.7 million people born in Sweden between 1983 and 2009. Of those, 3.2% were diagnosed with ADHD.

The risk of premature death was higher among adults with ADHD than children with ADHD, and people diagnosed with ADHD later in life had a higher risk of premature death than those diagnosed earlier in life, the findings showed.

Accidental injuries and suicide were the leading causes of death among people with ADHD, accounting for 35.8% and 31.4%, respectively, of the 414 deaths in that group.

Substance use disorders contributed substantially to the risk of death due to suicide, while the increased risk of death due to accidental injuries was evident only in those without psychiatric conditions, the study authors said in a university news release.

The investigators also found that early-onset conditions such as autism were most strongly associated with premature death due to natural causes, while later-onset psychiatric conditions, such as substance use disorders, were most strongly linked with death due to unnatural causes.

Psychiatric comorbidities

The study was published recently in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

The findings suggest that improved awareness and care of psychiatric conditions may help reduce the risk of premature death in people with ADHD, the study authors said.

"For individuals with a diagnosis of ADHD and their family members, we need to point out that most individuals with ADHD will not suffer from these serious outcomes," according to study senior author Henrik Larsson, a professor at Orebro University and a visiting professor at Karolinska Institute.

"The take-home message is that clinicians should consider psychiatric comorbidities carefully in their risk assessments as it may assist in identifying individuals with increased risk of premature death," Larsson said.

Image credit: iStock

 

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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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